above poster image by Leeson and Dunn, 1970 – and, sadly, still relevant today: click here for article on this iconic image 


NHS Cuts and underfunding

Reducing spending below where it needs to be to meet demand is used to undermine public services. Though NHS services are frequently overwhelmed, whether by the Covid-19 pandemic or winter pressures, KONP believes the NHS is not failing, it is being failed by Governments who refuse to fund it properly. 

Ten years of austerity

Since the 2008 economic crash the Conservative Government, who have been in power since 2010, have been making the argument that the UK needs to ‘balance the books’ with austerity economics after spending billions of pounds bailing out failed banks.
This saw spending fall or flatline for the past decade. Budgets rose by just 1.4 per cent each year on average (adjusting for inflation) in the 10 years between 2009/10 to 2018/19, compared to the 3.7 per cent average rises since the NHS was established.
In this time spending on public health services by councils was also 8 per cent lower in 2017/18 compared to 2013/14 (on a like-for-like basis).

Cuts and-underfunding_privatisation


Impact on patients

The impact on NHS staff and patients has been catastrophic with A&E waiting times worsening significantly over the past decade. The Kings Fund reports The NHS has not met the four-hour waiting time standard at nationally since 2013/14, and it has been missed in every month since July 2015. 
Mental health services have also been badly affected with waiting times for treatment so long that two-fifths of patients waiting for mental health treatment contact emergency or crisis services, with one-in-nine (11%) ending up in A&E, research by the Royal College of Psychiatrists has found. 

Creating an opportunity for private companies

These long waiting times for services open up an opportunity for the private sector to offer alternative services to desperate patients, but also for the Government to outsource ‘failing’ services to organisations who claim (though not prove) they can do it better. For example £10bn has been offered to private hospitals to clear the waiting lists caused by loss of capacity during the Covid pandemic.
This is why cutting spending to the NHS is an issue for campaigners who oppose privatisation of our public services.  
With thanks to national KONP for the above excerpt (click here)


Reduced critical care beds

The NHS is underfunded. The Government says that we can’t afford more, but we know that this underfunding is a political choice – along with the subsequent cuts, closures, lengthening waiting lists and demoralisation of staff.
The reality is that the UK, the worlds sixth largest economy, chooses to spend significantly less per head on health than Germany or France – and less than half what is spent in the US or Switzerland.

cuts 2

Unbelievable but shockingly true; the number of critical care beds/100,000 people:
U.K. 7.3
Germany 33.8
United States 34.3


….. and reduced over-all number of hospital beds in the UK


“The beds aren’t there anymore”….Tory cuts, not covid

cuts 5


Comparative Government spending on health 1955 – 2022

IMG-20210707-WA0000 (2)


….and more recently:

health spending

The pandemic did not help, nor did Brexit…. but the real culprit is the continuing Tory austerity-led poverty together with 13 years of starvation NHS funding.



Comparative public spending in five European countries, 1980 – 2024


This graph (Prof Danny Dorling, in “Public Sector Focus”) shows the UK consistently spends the smallest % of GDP on public services…..we are the red line bumping along the bottom.  Yet people keep voting Tory….


Nursing and medical staffing crises

Screenshot (258)

“Across primary and secondary care, there are currently 2.8 doctors per 1000 people in England, while the average in comparable OECD EU countries is 3.7. If the rate of medical workforce growth remains the same, it will take until 2046 before the NHS has the number of practicing doctors needed to match that average. That puts us 25 years behind where we should be today”.​     BMA     (13th July 2021)     Medical staffing in England   


staff numbers


docs and nurses

…..and the need for INCREASED funding

The data below relates to 2010 – 14 and demonstrates the need to invest MORE, not less, in the NHS.
See article in Financial Times     (17th November 2022)      UK health spending over past decade lags behind Europe by £40bn a year

Bar chart of Lung cancer age-standardised 5 year survival rate, 2010-14* (%) showing survival rates in the UK for some diseases lag those in other developed countries

More graphics and tables are on our “NHS Privatisation” page here


Reduced cash, reduced staffing, reduced NHS beds, reduced ongoing social care …. all obviously have an impact on emergency care:

The Guardian    (14th November 2021)   NHS patients dying in back of ambulances stuck outside A&E, report says

ambulance 2


….and that is just one part of the NHS healthcare system….



Update from Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign:

These cuts are not in our name with over 44,000 signing our petition. It is our hospital and our NHS and we should be able to retain and restore the vital acute and community health services that we all need.
The Chronicle    (14th September 2021)    ‘Staff pressures’ blamed as South Tyneside Hospital temporarily sends expectant mums to Sunderland
Shields Gazette   (30th July 2021)     Save South Tyneside Hospital campaigners turn out in rain to protest against ‘downgrading’ of children’s A&E
Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign website: http://www.savesouthtynesidehospital.org
Chair: Roger Nettleship (roger.nettleship@blueyonder.co.uk) 
facebook: SaveSouthTynesideHospital
Twitter: @SaveSTHospital
Phone: 07963 506 451


Further cuts to our NHS: Prescription charges


Over 60 year olds could soon be charged for NHS prescriptions under new plans being floated by the government to raise the age limit for free prescriptions from 60 to 66.   This is unacceptable. The pandemic has put a strain on the public finances – but that shouldn’t mean more people being forced to choose between their next meal and receiving medicine they need.


to sign the 38 Degrees petition

***UPDATE***September 2021****

“We wanted to say a huge thank you for being a part of the campaign to stop the government scrapping free NHS prescriptions for over 60s.
More than 187,000 of us signed the petition and more than 64,000 of us shared our views in a survey. 
We turned the results of the survey into a consultation submission, and share it – alongside the petition – with the Department of Health and Social Care. They’ve confirmed that the petition will be referenced to “demonstrate the strength of the public opinion”.
They’ve also confirmed that the responses from tens of thousands of us will be included in their evaluation, and thanked us for sharing our views. Their response shows just how powerful our voices can be – and that we can make a difference when we come together to take action on issues like the NHS.
We’ll keep you informed of the next steps on this campaign.
Thank you for your continued support,
Michael, Jonathan, and the 38 Degrees team.”


cuts 6




The Guardian    (1st January 2023)      A&E delays causing up to 500 deaths a week, says senior medic
Financial Times     (17th November 2022)      UK health spending over past decade lags behind Europe by £40bn a year
The Guardian     (5th October 2022)     Over 330,000 excess deaths in Great Britain linked to austerity, finds study
BBC News     (30th September 2022)      Record number of nurses quitting the NHS
Sky News      (30th September 2022)     Cost-of-living crisis: Nurses leaving for better-paid jobs in shops because ‘they can’t afford to work for NHS’
The Lowdown     (26th September 2022)      Weak Coffey plan won’t stimulate crumbling NHS
The Guardian     (26th September 2022)    The doctor won’t see you now – the NHS is in crisis
The Lowdown    (24th September 2022)      70 organisations object to moves to “weaken” public health measures
The Guardian     (18th September 2022)   There is no end point to the work of a GP – it is an almost impossible job to do well
The Guardian    (14th September 2022)   Burnout in doctors doubles chances of patient safety problems, study finds
The Lowdown     9th September 2022   Why plan for virtual wards won’t lift NHS out of crisis
The Lowdown     (1st September 2022)   More questions than answers on virtual wards
The Guardian     (25th July 2022)    Worst NHS staffing crisis in its history is putting patients at serious risk, MPs warn
The Lowdown     (25th July 2022)      Lack of beds key to A&E and ambulance delays
The Guardian    (24th July 2022)     Charge for hospital stays to help fund NHS, says ex-health boss
The Guardian    (4th July 2022)   Woman suffering mental health crisis left waiting eight days in A&E
The Guardian     (29th June 2022)   More healthcare to go online in England under digitisation plan
The Observer    (26th June 2022)     NHS crisis caused by Tory underfunding not Covid, say doctors
The Guardian     (22nd June 2022)   2022 hardest year ‘in living memory’ to enter UK medical school
The Guardian     (12th June 2022)     Paramedics are ‘leaving in droves’ as ambulance callouts almost double
The Guardian    (7th June 2022)   Care for 2m Britons with long Covid ‘woefully inadequate’, say top nurses
The Guardian    (18th May 2022)   Numbers of nurses and midwives leaving NHS highest for four years
The Guardian     (6th April 2022)     Families asked to take in Covid-positive loved ones as NHS faces ‘perfect storm’
The Lowdown      (30th March 2022)   NHS staff must suffer real terms pay cut say Treasury
The Lowdown     (30th March 2022)   Sunak unleashes a new austerity
The Guardian    (30th March 2022)      Free parking for NHS hospital staff in England to end on Friday
The Guardian     (21st March 2022)   Over 80% of UK GPs think patients are at risk in their surgery, survey finds
The Guardian      (16th March 2022)   Surgery and cancer care in England will have long delays for years – report
Nursing Notes    (14th March 2022)    NHS workers warned another real-terms pay cut is ‘highly likely’
The Mirror     (3rd March 2022)    Boris Johnson suffers Lords defeat forcing Tories to reveal scale of NHS staffing crisis
Morning Star     (26th February 2022)     We demand emergency funding for the NHS now
The Lowdown     (26th February 2022)     It’s high time ministers and NHS took staffing crisis seriously
The Lowdown     (18th February 2022)   Plan to tackle NHS queues lacks funding for staff, but favours private sector
Health Service Journal     (17th February 2022)     ‘Unprecedented numbers’ sent hundreds of miles for a bed
The Guardian     (23rd January 2022)     Severe shortage of nurses in UK children’s intensive care units
The Lowdown     (21st January 2022)   Mental health: data backs up concerns over services
The Guardian    (3rd January 2022)   Lincolnshire hospitals declare ‘critical incident’ over staff shortages
The Lowdown    (1st December 2021)   SOS NHS – fighting to rebuild and expand NHS capacity
East Anglian Daily Times    (29th November 2021)    Suffolk – Survey finds no NHS dental practices taking adult patients now
The Guardian    (28th November 2021)   UK health trusts suspend home birth services as midwives shortage deepens
The Guardian     (15th November 2021)    As a paramedic, I can tell you why people are dying in the backs of ambulances, Mr Javid
The Guardian    (14th November 2021)   NHS patients dying in back of ambulances stuck outside A&E, report says
The Guardian    (11th November 2021)   ‘It’s awful’: what it’s like to work a 12-hour ambulance shift in England 
The Guardian    (10th November 2021)   NHS is at breaking point and putting patients at high risk, bosses warn
The Guardian     (2nd November 2021)   No 10 set to break promise of 6,000 more GPs in England, Sajid Javid says
The Independent    (18th October 2021)   NHS hospitals still using out-of-date MRI and CT scanners, report says 
The Observer     (16th October 2021)   A&E crisis leaves patients waiting in ambulances outside hospitals for 11 hours
The Guardian    (14th October 2021)   Austerity in England linked to more than 50,000 extra deaths in five years
The Guardian    (14th October 2021)      GPs warn face-to-face appointments plan could lead to exodus of doctors
The Lowdown    (4th October 2021)   Nottingham rations cancer care due to lack of staff
The Guardian     (2nd October 2021)   Doctors, receptionists and practice teams quit after wave of hostility over GP appointments 
Sky News    (2nd October 2021)   Top military chief appointed by government to lead ‘far-reaching’ review of NHS leadership
The Guardian     (1st October 2021)   England’s NHS and care services need 1.1m extra staff by 2031, finds study
The Guardian    (29th September 2021)   Ministers under fire over breaking of mental health crisis pledge in England
The Guardian    (27th September 2021)   Hospitals in England relax Covid rules to help tackle waiting lists
The Guardian    (25th September 2021)   Fears over NHS plan to close all local ambulance stations in London
The Guardian    (13th September 2021)     Shortfall of 50,000 doctors may overwhelm NHS in winter, BMA warns
The Guardian    (13th September 2021)    Sharp rise in acute medical beds occupied by children with nowhere else to go
The Lowdown    (6th September 2021)   Millions go without mental health support
The Guardian   (16th August 2021)   Warning over potential roof collapses at NHS England hospitals
The Guardian    (29th July 2021)    GP clinics at ‘breaking point’ and recovery plan is essential
The Guardian    (28th July 2021)        Dire poverty in north-east England ‘driving many more children into care’
How to Protect Our NHS by Aileen Gemmell, performed by Kenny Boyle:
The Guardian    (25th July 2021)      Nurses’ pay in England to fall 7% in a decade even after government offer
The Guardian    (22nd July 2021)    NHS staff have lost thousands in real pay since 2011, studies find
BMA     (13th July 2021)     Medical staffing in England     
The Lowdown    (12th July 2021)     Silly season bid to sneak through new prescription charges
The Lowdown    (9th July 2021)      Maternity safety compromised in a third of NHS trusts
Nursing Notes    (3rd July 2021)     Poor nursing pay is a ‘patient safety issue’, explain campaigners ahead of today’s countrywide protests
Mirror    (1st July 2021)    People over 60 could be hit by prescription charges under new Government plans
The Guardian   (29th April 2021)    Covid bereaved condemn government refusal to publish NHS 111 training content
The Guardian   (21st April 2021)   End NHS staff shortages now, Boris Johnson told
The Lowdown   (16th April 2021)     The “terrifying” mental health crisis explained
The Independent    (17th April 2021)    ‘Staff have been treated like cannon fodder’: NHS bosses issue stark warning on future of health service
The Tories did not ‘restore the nursing bursary’.  https://twitter.com/keepnhspublic/status/1362369239999479809
The Guardian    (6th April 2021)   I don’t blame colleagues for leaving the NHS: the government has betrayed them
Left Foot Forward    (1st July 2019)     Medicine menus: How the NHS is being chipped away by stealth




And watch the performance:

How to Protect Our NHS by Aileen Gemmell, performed by Kenny Boyle: